Forty years is a long time. That's how long Los Banos resident Gene Vierra will have served the Merced Community College District when he retires as a board member on Dec. 5.
Gene announced his retirement during the board meeting at the Los Banos Campus earlier this month. He will be missed.
Gene started serving the college in 1972 when Dean Ted McVey convinced him to teach economics and business law as an adjunct instructor, just one year after the full-time campus opened in Los Banos in a rented facility on L Street. Gene's experience as a lawyer and his interest in economics helped make him an excellent instructor.
In 1994, Gene began serving as a member of the college's board of trustees, representing the Westside of the college district. He continued to serve as a board member for 18 years.
Gene is respected as a board member. He has represented his Westside constituents well, and he has looked after the best interests of the college as a whole.
Perhaps his most important contribution, from a Los Banos perspective, has been his persistent encouragement to build a new, permanent campus in Los Banos.
Almost from his first day on the board, Gene encouraged college President Jan Kehoe and then Ben Duran to pursue land and funding for a campus that would serve students for generations to come.
Although the 10-acre campus on Mercey Springs Road and the modular buildings that housed classes since 1982 had served students adequately, Gene had an eye on the future.
At board meetings, Gene would frequently ask, "What's the latest progress toward a new Los Banos Campus?"
He monitored the college's pursuit of several different locations and plans for a new campus.
There were times at these meetings when Gene would say with a smile, "I intend to hold my breath until we have a new campus in Los Banos."
Finally, through Gene's and Duran's persistence, the college accepted 120 acres along Highway 152 donated by Larry and Georgeanne Anderson. Soon afterward, state money was secured, and Westside voters approved a bond election that enabled a more spacious campus to be built.
When the new campus opened in fall 2008, with facilities that included state-of-the-art science laboratories, Gene was able to exhale, while local students and community members applauded.
During 2012, Gene was president of the board that sought to replace Duran. When Ron Taylor was selected, Gene had completed the last of the many tasks he had undertaken as a board member.
Throughout his service to Merced College, Gene has served with integrity, competence, fairness and humility. He never put himself in the spotlight. Instead, he frequently praised others -- the college's faculty, staff, administrators and students for their dedication to education and student success. He is greatly appreciated.
Every student at the Los Banos Campus, all residents of the Westside and the entire college community owe Gene a large debt of gratitude.
On other matters: A reminder -- the Friends of the Los Banos Library small-art sale and social is Thursday from 5 to 8. A few tickets are still available for this important and enjoyable library fundraiser through the Phoenix Bookstore at (209) 826-3797.
Another event next week was brought to my attention by Los Banos Campus college professor and St. Joseph's Parish member Cindy Nocito.
Nancy Fierro, a noted concert pianist, writer and speaker, will be making a presentation on Hildegard of Bingen, titled "Awakening to God's Love," from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday in St. Joseph's Parish meeting room, 1862 S. Center Ave. There is no cost and the public is invited.
St. Hildegard, who earlier this month was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a doctor of the Catholic Church, was a 12th-century nun who -- with her talents in music, spirituality, science and leadership -- was clearly a woman ahead of her time.
Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.